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Alabama Football Film Room: How the Tide stopped Kyler Murray early

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Orange Bowl-Alabama vs Oklahoma Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knew Oklahoma’s defense would struggle to stop Tua Tagovailoa and the Alabama offens. The #1 offense in the country was supposed to give the Sooners a chance to stay in the fight, however. Kyler Murray won the Heisman (but was not a Consensus All-American, just saying) and was a true home run threat (get it? He plays baseball).

That did not really turn out to be the case. Yes, Murray eventually put up over 400 yards and 3 touchdowns, making it look a whole lot closer; but the game was already over. While Alabama was racing out to a 28-0 lead, Murray went 1-5 for 18 yards with -1 yard on the ground (8 yards if you take away sacks).

1st and 10: Oklahoma starts with trips left, but Murray motions one receiver left to right. He takes the snap and reads Anfernee Jennings (#33), who has his hand in the dirt on the left of the defensive line. Jennings plays the running back, so Murray keeps it and takes off, with the receiver who was motioned blocking the boundary corner, Saivion Smith (#4). Murray tries to get to the sideline, but Smith shoves the wide receiver backwards into Murray’s path. It ends up as just a 3 yard gain.

2nd and 7: Oklahoma again has trips left with a tight end on the right. Bama rushes just four while the Sooners send everyone out for a pass. Quinnen Williams (#92) just drives the center back, and Raekwon Davis (#99) also provides a little pressure as well. The coverage is solid - including Shyheim Carter (#5) and Dylan Moses (#32) passing off their men perfectly. Murray sees some daylight with a gap between Davis and Anfernee Jennings, so he takes off. Jennings comes off his block (against RT Cody Ford, who declared for the draft on Tuesday), however, and grabs ahold of Murray’s jersey, dragging him down for a sack.

3rd and 11: For the third down, Oklahoma has trips left once more; but they also have a receiver on the right. Jennings, on the left, shows like he’s going to rush but drops into coverage. Bama brings Xavier McKinney (#15), who’s down near the line covering the slot receiver, from the other side. Christian Miller (#47) is also rushing, and the pressure from McKinney means it’s just Miller against the left tackle. Miller wins. The left tackle can’t get back and out quickly enough. Miller gets low and bends, and he’s around and past the tackle. Murray steps up; but, again, the coverage is good enough to prevent a throw. Miller catches up to Murray and brings him down from behind.

1st and 10: The three and out for Oklahoma gave way to another Alabama touchdown. Oklahoma got a quick first down in two plays to start this drive. Is the vaunted Sooner offense getting things going?

Murray’s in the shotgun with the running back on his left hip and two receivers on either side. One receiver, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, motions right to left, behind Murray and the running back; and McKinney follows. The left tackle and guard pull right, setting up a power run. I don’t know if this is purely a fake or if Murray has the option to hand the ball off, but Murray does pass. Shyheim Carter blitzes from the nickel, so Oklahoma has a numbers advantage on the left until McKinney can get all the way over. That should be enough time for Murray to hit Brown, but the Heisman winner throws it at the feet of his receiver. Incomplete.

2nd and 10: Oklahoma goes back to trips left with a single wideout to the right. Murray hands it off here, but Quinnen Williams single-handedly destroys this play. By the time the running back has the ball - and before he can move - there’s a 300lb bar of soap three yards in the backfield. Williams was heads up over the center, but the center pulls to the right. The left guard is tasked with picking up Williams with help from the right guard. It goes about as you’d expect. The left guard ends up on his rear end, and the running back is barely able to escape Williams. He is unable to escape Isaiah Buggs (#49), though; and it’s a 5 yard loss. In seven offensive plays, the Oklahoma offense has three negative plays.

3rd and 15: We miss the very beginning of this play, but Oklahoma had two receivers on either side. Murray fakes the quick screen to the left, and then looks downfield to the right. Hollywood Brown is wide to the right. He releases inside, stutter steps, and the goes back outside on a fly route. I don’t know the exact call; but, with the slot receiver breaking inside and the outside receiver on a fly route, I’d imagine Smith should stick with Brown in man coverage. Smith stops, though, when Brown stutter steps and is done. Jared Mayden (#21) has deep coverage but doesn’t impact Brown at all. Fortunately for Alabama, Murray overthrows Brown, who isn’t 100% after his injury in the Big 12 championship; and it’s 4th down.

2nd and 1: Another Alabama drive, another Alabama touchdown. The defense has done its job thus far, coming up with two stops. And it’s not done. The Sooners have started this drive off well. Murray finally completed his first pass, a dime to the tight end for 18 yard. They followed it up with a 9 yard run, and they’re threatening to get another first.

Oklahoma has two receivers on the right along with an H-back. The running back is about a yard behind Murray and to the right. Bama has four down linemen, though LaBryan Ray is a yard off the line. Christian Miller is the left defensive end here, and he’s unblocked. He crashes down, playing the running back; so Murray keeps it and takes off to the right. Dylan Moses does an excellent job avoiding RT Cody Ford, who has come up to the second level, and fills the hole. Murray decides he would rather not take Moses on head on and tries to bounce it even further outside. Unfortunately for the Heisman winner, he trips and falls for a 3 yard loss. Instead of 3rd and 1 at the worst and possibly a first down, it’s 3rd and 4.

3rd and 4: Oklahoma has three receivers in a bunch to the left and one wide right; the running back is to Murray’s right. Alabama rushes four; and, shockingly, Quinnen Williams gets quick penetration. The center does keep him away from Murray, and the quarterback is able to step up and throw it. Watch the bunched receivers. Two run routes to the outside while the other, the middle guy slightly to the left, starts to run a quick in-breaking route before breaking back out. Murray hurries a pass to him. It’s hard to exactly tell from the sideline angle, but the pass hits the receiver in the hand and looks like it could have been caught. However, the ball was coming in fast and wasn’t placed particularly well.

4th and 4: Murray has motioned the running back wide left, outside the numbers. Mack Wilson (#30) follows him, leaving nobody in the middle of the field near the line for Alabama. Deionte Thompson does creep down a few yards, but he’s still 10 yards deep. Inside of the running back, Oklahoma has three receivers bunched again; and there’s a lone receiver to the right. The bunched receivers run basically the same routes as the previous play. The front and back receivers both flare to the outside while the middle one again slants towards the middle of the field. Bama is ready for it.

Xavier McKinney is trailing the receiver, and Deionte Thompson has quickly closed the gap. The most crucial part is Christian Miller, who is standing up on the right side of the line. He acts like he’s rushing, which is what he normally does; but, after taking a big step forward, he drops back into coverage. Miller is right between Murray and his receiver. To top things off, Quinnen Williams busts a nifty little swim move and beats the right guard. To Murray’s credit, he throws the pass off his back foot with Williams coming at him; and he places it in about the only spot open for his receiver to make a play. It’s still too low for him to make a play, though.

Alabama gets the ball near midfield and proceeds to score their fourth straight touchdown. It’s now 28-0. Sure, the Sooners would get it together on offense with Murray making some great plays. They scored on the next drive and went on to score on every second half drive. But the game had already changed.